Monday, December 27, 2010

A Frame of Mind

Countdown to 'back to school'. The anticipation of decorating the tree, opening packages, stuffing ourselves like a Thanksgiving turkey are behind us now we look at the days until school starts up again.

Tomorrow I will be back with the girls again. They had three Christmases with presents to open. One more will happen next weekend. Hm. I remember the day after Christmas when my children were tired and cranky. Nothing more was to be anticipated. It was all behind us. The words inevitably find their way out of a child's mouth post Christmas, "I'm bored."

I don't remember being bored. We never got much for Christmas. Maybe that is the ticket. Don't overwhelm the child. Well, we know that's not going to happen.

Boredom. I believe boredom to be born of parents buying entertainment for their children. Children don't know how to live with boredom. To savor the feeling of lying in the grass with the sun on your face and nothing in the world sitting on the edge of the mind waiting to entertain. My mind was my entertainment. Listening to my records for hours. Rollerskating around a ping pong table, sitting at the piano. I don't remember boredom as a child. I guess I don't know as an adult either.

The TV, Wii and X-Box become the babysitters. New books sit in a pile gathering dust. God help us if the TV goes out!!!!

I'm not condemning anyone for purchasing video games or allowing their children to watch TV. But I do think that maybe our kids are growing up expecting instant gratification. Maybe handling boredom is a skill that needs to be taught. I sometimes wonder if this generation will have more problems with marriages and jobs finding change and excitement, self-satisfaction more to their liking then dedication and persistence.

Yes, I'm old fashion. Growing up in my home on the farm involved sitting at the card table with family putting a puzzle together. All of us around the piano singing carols. Chatting around the kitchen table visiting for hours. In my opinion, we have lost something. We have lost connection with one another.

My son has often commented that the people he knows don't ask about what is happening in his life. Yesterday a friend visiting shared the same. What is it we are doing wrong? Why don't we care enough to ask about others instead of talking about ourselves and our families? Have we forgotten to care? Are the skills of listening gone? 

Maybe conversation around the kitchen table, cooking in the kitchen together, sharing chores teaches us to care for and appreciate one another more. Even playing the games together is important, but there is something to be said for a board game vs. a video game. A phone call versus a text message.

I notice on the days the girls and I spend around the table painting or the times we play school or practicing acting exercises, the girls don't seem to notice that the TV is off. Even when the playing is done, a new bond is in place, and we share the quieter time of the day. We take more of interest in one another. Sister seems happier to help sister. A change has taken place.

"Grammy, I'm bored," will be said by one of the girls this week. That's my signal. My signal to help them discover that boredom is only a frame of mind.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays

The packages are ready to be wrapped. The girls are home for two weeks. My life just got a little busier, so I am taking a break from my blogs until next week. Please come back and join me in conversation on December 28th.

Have a safe and wonderful celebration with your family and friends. Make memories with those wonderful grandchildren. Turn off the computer and enjoy the season. 'Tis the season....

Happy Holidays, my friends. Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Broken Ornament

A small hand reaches up for the first time to hang an ornament on the tree. Quickly the hand grabs for another. Momentum builds and soon ornaments are hanging in an area as tall and as wide as the child.

Adults grabbed glass ornaments hanging them above little hands. Memories hung where they can be seen over the holiday season remembering other days and other people. Little hands reach for the tree wanting to hang the ornaments again and again.
Occasionally, an ornament drops and breaks. Big eyes look up knowing that something bad has happened. Perhaps one of those precious pieces, perhaps one made by loving hands breaks beyond repair. A child learns. So does a parent. For all the love and memory of the pieces on the floor, the lesson to be realized takes priority. The child learns to handle with care. The adult learns that the ornaments are just things.

We have lost ornaments over the years. And, we have lost the people who gave them to us as well. A life may be gone, but the memory is not. The broken ornament offers special moments between parent and child. We pick up the pieces and smile, "I remember when....." Lessons for both.

Many of this older generation no long want to put up with the mess of a tree. It seems like a hassle to drag out the boxes and place the ornaments on the tree. Maybe the tree brings on thoughts of loneliness and separation. Maybe we pack away our childhood dreams and want to keep them in the box. Maybe too many things have been broken in our lives. Perhaps the body does not have the flexibility or ability to decorate a tree. The boxes remain unopened.

My ornaments will one day live with my children, my grandchildren. A history will be passed on. Perhaps another pair of small hands will hold them then place them on the tree.....all in one spot. I look at our tree and remember.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Memories

Microsoft decided to send a million (at least) updates to my computer this morning. Comcast and I worked it out, and my blog is late.

Singing Christmas Tree, The Nutcracker, Christmas programs at churches and schools, a wide variety of things to do over the holidays. Ways to add to Christmas memories.

I love the fantasy we got to experience with our children when they were young. I love the times we went sledding and built snowmen. I miss those moments we sat reading Christmas stories. The grandgirls are older, and the glow for them is fading.
In looking back over old pictures, I'm a little surprised that my daughter wasn't traumatized by the characters at the yearly Christmas breakfast. We tried to embraced every bit of the surprise and wonder. We worked hard to make those times happen with our children. For our children.

Years ago we took the girls to Alpenrose Dairy, to Christmas town. We walked the streets looking at the decorations and sat through the drama in the opera house. We rode in a horse drawn wagon sitting close together to keep warm. We make memories for our children, for our grandchildren and I think most of all for ourselves.

My children do not remember well the events when they were small. A glimpse might pass by when a memory is jarred. They do not remember the hug from Rudolph or a cookie from a big bear. But I remember every moment. Maybe I sell my children short. Maybe they don't have time to remember.
 
We didn't do much when I was a child, but I do remember a reindeer with a red nose. I wish there were pictures so I could remember more. Again, we hold the history.

Smile. You're a Christmas memory.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Remembering Pictures Colored With Crayon

My mother passed away ten years ago. Yesterday a friend reminded me of a post I wrote some time ago. It was written ten years ago on a cold December day back the lane on the farm on Neff Road. A piece not just for our family but an observation, a lesson learned from a woman who loved children. For you, Mom.

As you descended the stairway to the basement, you were surrounded by a gallery of art ranging from the simplest scratched lines of a toddler to the neatly colored pages of an older child. Even teens enjoyed a step back in time to color another page for the gallery they had visited in their younger years. Each page was a treasure to her. No piece was ever thrown away.

Eventually, each found its way into her coloring notebook. Saved for the child? I think not. I believe they were treasures from these children she loved. She understood that even a simple line was an effort to be recognized.

He stood alone at her casket with his arms at his sides. Connor was the youngest great grandchild before Sydney joined the pack. I knelt down to comfort him and saw the tears streaming down his face, dripping from his chin. I hugged him a moment before he disappeared into the "family" room where he stayed most of the day.

It was almost time to leave when I walked to the casket one more time. There atop the soft, cream coverlet laid a picture Connor had spent the day drawing for Grandma. Following his example, each of the great grandchildren lovingly drew a picture to accompany Mom on her journey. Sydney's consisted of a few scribbled lines and her hand print, a baby's signature.

My mother knew that even the simplest effort deserves recognition. Be it large or small, success or failure, between the lines or freestyle, it is worth praise.

We are a variety of people who dress differently, who think differently, who have different histories. We are each unique yet reside in the same notebook.

I looked at the flowers surrounding my mother and thought, "They should all have been pictures colored with crayon."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beneath The Stairs

So years ago my granddaughters began this love of the little room under the stairs.  Many times they are coat closets. Almost always they have a door to the crawl space on the floor. Now most people call that area a closet. But not so in our house. A closet might not be what it seems.

Years ago I lived in a house with a stairway with a landing. The closet under the stairs was huge. Coats lined the front of the closet, but when the coats were pulled back, a wonderful playhouse was revealed. The little ice cream parlor table and chairs sat in the corner with a small lamp on top to light the area. Pillows were tossed in a corner. Dolls sat ready for an evening meal. Stuffed toys and bins of toys waited for small hands. I'm sure that when the light was turned off and the door closed the closet came to magical life. It certainly did when the girls went in to play. The hours flew by when the girls pretended they lived in the little house beneath the stairs.

In my last home, Sydney found a space in the water heater closet where games and crafts were stored on a rack. It was a space only big enough to allow her to curl up with a pillow behind her back and a book in her hands. She claimed it as her space.

Syd and I were concerned that Gabby didn't have a space for herself since now she is sharing a room with Mom. We agreed that the coat closet just might be the perfect place. Mom bought a purple zebra striped blanket for the floor to cover the crawl space door. A pillow rest was placed in the corner. A bag of books, pencils and magazines, posters on the walls and ceiling and two battery operated wall lights finished off the space.

Gabby immediately fell in love with the closet as did her sister. Soon both were packed in the space giggling and enjoying the space away from adults.

Yesterday I popped my head into the closet to see if everything was indeed turned off. The girls had gone home with Dad. In the middle of the floor was a notebook with three words scribbled in large letters on it.

"Stacey, did you see what is on the floor?" I asked leaning out of the closet door.

"Uh huh. Wasn't sure what to make of it," she answered.

I picked up the note book: I Am Jeses.

Hm. Maybe that requires two. Hm. Hm.

"Does that say Jesus," I asked my daughter.

"Sorta looks like it," she answered.

That was precisely what I thought.

"So who wrote it," I inquired.

"Not sure," she answered.

The next day I asked both girls who had written the cryptic message. Both denied it. Now I can tell when my granddaughters are working their way around something. Not a glimmer of  "I really did do it" sparkled in either girls' eyes. Another Hm.

Stacey and I are still trying to figure out who wrote the message. Once in awhile I open the door wondering if another message would appear. Maybe I watch too much Harry Potter. We're pretty sure it didn't come from Sydney and have decided that it might not hurt to be really nice around Gabby.

The room under the stairs. Ah, a kids' paradise. Hm. Did I say paradise?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Regifting

I cannot walk in your shoes. I cannot know the thoughts in your mind, the history that follows you. I cannot reach back to that day you were born, share the joys and losses you have experienced since. I cannot know your hurt, your healing.

I cannot walk in your shoes. I cannot judge you for I do not know you. I cannot understand your thought process, your conclusions. I cannot understand your hunger or your pain. I do not know what it is to be rich or to be homeless. I have not lived in a war-torn country. I have not lived on a boat, on a mountain, in a cave. I do not know you. I cannot walk in your shoes.

The wipers beat a steady 'swish, swish'. The light was still red. 'Swish, swish'. "I cannot walk in your shoes." The words resonated over and over in my waiting brain. With each swish, the words came again. "I cannot walk in your shoes."

"Pam, you need to write about this," my damp brain told me. So here I am.

There are many quotes about walking in shoes, following behind to see where someone else has been, learning about others without judgment.

I cannot walk in your shoes. I do not know you. I cannot know your life. I have no right to judge. I cannot even totally understand those I love, my children, my grandchildren.

This is a season of giving. Maybe it's a season of forgiving. Sometimes it's not easy to toss aside a flair of anger or a unsolicited comment. Sometimes it's hard to let go of preconceived notions., beliefs. Through the eyes of a child. Listening in new ways. Embracing a world of faces and ideas that might be alien to what we know and accept.

The light finally turned green, and I was first to go. "I cannot walk in your shoes."

So I write. So I share. So I open myself up to new thoughts that might challenge, might just enlighten and most definitely delight.

I cannot walk in your shoes, but I can love with a love that is free, unhindered by judgment and one that can be regifted. If everyone could take just one day to love everyone they meet, the world would change. One day could make a lifetime of anger disappear and the red light turned green.

I cannot walk in your shoes, but I can give you the gift of love.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Two Peas in a Pod

Reindeer by Gabby
They hear. We may not think so, but they do. They may not have the words to express it or the outlet to do so, but there is a little place they store it. They hear. They really do.

I know about this first hand. My sister, June, was my parents pride and joy. Whenever my parents met up with friends, my sister was the daughter they talked about. It wasn't her fault. My parents had spent two years taking care of my sister bedfast with rheumatic fever. That she recovered was a miracle. So, she deserved to be the favorite. Not to say she isn't talented. My sister is fantastic. She's smart, artistic and fun. But this isn't about my sister. This is about how children perceive that differential treatment.

Recently, a mother told me that it was natural to feel closer to one child. The mother was my daughter. The anger I had felt all my life surfaced. Then I stepped back and thought about it. Had I done this to my child?
By Sydney

My son and I have a great deal in common. We both love music and theatre. We both are observers and writers. So did that commonality cause my daughter to feel outside of that bond?

From birth on, my daughter had preferred her daddy's arms. For a first mom, it hurt. We were alone in Wisconsin, away from family. I needed to have that love from my daughter. I had the same bond with my daddy and wonder now if my mother had felt left out. Despite the efforts to build that relationship, my daughter saw it differently. Now we struggle to know one another.

By Gabby
I've learned a lesson late and want more for my little girls. With my granddaughters, I try to have one on one time making each the target of my attention. They are so different. Gabby is a whirlwind of energy. Her focus time is limited. She sees everything around her and reacts. She is positive and leaves joy in her wake. Sydney is creative and artistic. Everyone loves her for her kind heart and wit. Two different peas in the same pod.

Gabby often hears: "Don't run. Gabby, a little quieter, please. Gabby, what are you doing? Oh, Gabby.....". A bundle of energy.

We sit at the craft table. Sydney paints to perfection. Gabby paints with gusto. One has precise, beautiful art. The other has pure delight in the feel of the brush which reflects in the wonderful pictures she paints and draws. It is easy to ooh and aah over Sydney's pictures. Gabby's make me laugh. Each gifted with talent.

By Sydney
We grandparents have an 'evening' task. We have the ability to help each child find their own voice. We can give them self confidence and pride. We can perhaps empty those little areas where children keep the stray comments and actions that hurt.

By Gabby
A friend has two daughters. One is in gymnastics and pretty as a picture. The other child is has struggled with health and gets the hand-me-downs. When asked what she does (since her sister is deep into gymnastics), the little girl answers that she can't do anything because they don't have the money. The dark areas fill quickly when you are a child. The inequality whether imagined or not becomes a base that separates.

I am an adult who can look at her own past and understand. My sister and I are very close. I absolutely adore her.

We are the grandparents. We are the weights who can balance the differences and make it better. Two peas in a pod.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Tattered Pattern

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. The stockings hung at our chimney were made with much love and care.

In the '80's Family Circle advertised what would be considered now as folk art, needlepoint stockings. I sent for the pattern that came with the outline of the stockings as well as the pieces to create names and designs. Hour after hour I toiled over the stockings wanting them to be just right for my children.

Not long after I took up the needle and pattern again to make stockings for my niece and grandniece. Each stocking takes hours to make. Eagerly I filled the finished stockings and sent them to the farm for my niece to open on Christmas Day. Dad misplaced the gifts from me so later sent the package on to Jobi in Indiana. She was at work when the gifts were delivered then stolen off her doorstep.

Years later I would again make stockings for her and her family of six. Other stockings would follow for me and my husband. Hour upon hour of stitching. Soon my hands were aching from the repetitive work.

Two granddaughters were born to the family. By now I had begun to create my own designs making each stocking different and more personal.

My hands will no longer do needlepoint. I keep hoping someone in the family will want to continue the homemade stockings. I would love to see a tradition move forward.

Yes, names are on the stockings. Unless someone comes along with the same name, the stockings will be just pieces of the past.

 For another year, they hang with care from a Grandma who hopes Santa soon will be here.

The tattered pattern waits.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Potential Elf

Toys. Christmas. Toys.

I'm struggling with toys. I'm struggling with the price of toys. I'm struggling with the types of toys being hyped in the media. Toys.

Last night Gabby and I play Balloon Lagoon. The game has been on the game shelf for several years. One of our favorites is suitable for children five and up. Adults enjoy it as much as the kids. So, I write to my sister and tell her about the game. She has two small grandsons who would love it. Before I wrote, I decided to check out the price on Amazon. $115!!!!!!!! I don't know what the price was when my granddaughters' game was purchased, but I know that no one in the family would pay that much for a game!

I decided to go online to see what else I could find for over $100: a small, wooden doll house; a small toy piano; a wooden rail and road set; a pony that can have it's hair braided and gems glue to it. What is going on?  Why is fun so expensive????

Surprisingly, little wooden toys made to encourage the child's mind, those made from Mother Earth herself, are equally expensive.

When I grew up, we had just a few things in the bottom of a stocking. One Christmas I received a small celluloid doll that walked across a table top when a weighted string was dropped over the edge of a table. I decided to look up antique toys from that period during the 50's to see what my little plastic toy was worth. The only toy coming close to the little doll was worth $49. At the time, it couldn't have been worth more than a dollar or two.

Considering the above, I predict that by the time my granddaughters are in their later years, this game we played last night will be worth a few thousand dollars. Well, maybe not. Makes one wonder, doesn't it. Are toys only for the rich and used toys for the rest of us? Are we, the adults, allowing this to happen because we break the bank trying to buy the toys? Maybe we should go back to the button on a string.

Well, if I still had the old tinker toys and tin top that spun when you pushed the pump top, the Tiny Tears dolls that cried real tears, my old wooden Duncan yoyo, wooden blocks that had grooves that fit together and the old Cootie game, I could sell them and buy a toy for a child.

Hundreds of dollar for Santa to make it down the chimney granting the wishes of children, children who will not know any better just like I didn't.

I like to believe elves make those gifts that ride in that big red bag.Their wages must be pretty good based on toy prices. I'm short. Maybe I could get a job at the North Pole.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Silver and Gold

Ha! I'll bet you think this is about Christmas. Not so. This is about changes. About embracing changes. And, a little bit about being afraid of change.

Last Friday I met up with a couple of guys I worked with several years ago. Usually, the group of friends numbers more with spouses and other friends in attendance, but this night only three of us were available for happy hour. It had been awhile since we had last met up.

"I really like your hair," Phil said. "It looks lighter."

Hm. That could be because it is lighter.

Several months ago I decided to let my hair go 'natural'. No more coloring. No more chasing the white and grey. My blond was going to be of another time, another age. I was tired of chemicals on my head. I was tired of trying to look younger than my sixty-three years. Why not embrace the original me?

This growing out of hair is a bit of an adventure. Off and on over the years, I highlighted my hair. My dirty blond was brightened with tiny streaks of light blond. I was aging and didn't really know it. Then one day I noticed that I was getting highlights that I hadn't added. White was finding its way around my face. I was actually turning into a grandma!!!!

So, like so many other women, I began chasing the white. I noticed that I had more highlights than natural color. Hm. I could no longer tell what was my natural color and what was not.

Tightening my belt financially had me looking more closely at what was important in my life and what was not. I spent more time looking in the mirror trying to imagine myself with the natural color....whatever that was. I noticed that I no longer needed to highlight the top portion of hair. White was invading and blond was retreating. So after weeks of wondering, I made the decision. No more coloring my hair. No more sharing my life with my hairdresser. No more paying to look younger. I decided to embrace my age and my new natural color.

Many months have passed since my hair was last colored. I do not have grow out. As the blond fades, the white takes over. A little grey gives it a bit of depth. I don't look in the mirror as much preferring not to think about it. So I am embracing this adventure. Who needs a mirror when you get great feedback.

"Wow, I really like it," Phil added.

Hey, so do I.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gifts: Day Three


Gifts of their hands. We are on day three of our 25 Days of Christmas. It is Gabby’s turn to hand out the ornament today. The girls have been a bit tentative as they are every year. Walking up to someone and handing them a gift is always an unknown. We have had two situations that were a bit odd. One man gave the girls a penny. Another woman just pushed the girls away. All learning experiences.
The girls require adult supervision. We talk about each experience. Many times an adult will ask about our gift giving. The stories we receive from these people make it all worthwhile. The smiles, the words of thanks, the surprised looks. Soon the girls will find their strides and wish they had made more ornaments.
I love the gifts the girls hand out. They are each a work of art, a piece of the child’s creativity. The time preparing for the holidays if full of wonderful grandma time with granddaughters. Even if we kept every ornament, I wouldn’t miss the time we spend together in preparation.
I will keep you posted on our progress. I hope you think about doing this with your family some year. You will understand why the 25 Days of Christmas are so important.
This blog is short today. I have written a special blog on www.neffroad.com.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

We Were The Winners

The chairs were empty but for a few. There was no line around the raffle table. The bookstore was not teeming with people. 'Tis the season?

Yesterday Gabby handed out the first ornament of our 25 Days of Christmas. She gave it to the school librarian who stood behind the raffle table at Powell's Books. Usually we pass out the ornaments to strangers, but this was an exception. Miss Adams was thrilled.

Last night was a school fund raiser. A portion of the sell of books would go to the school by the requesting customer-parents. In the middle of the store was a seating area where elementary school students read books aloud. A raffle table was set up full of wonderful baskets donated by local businesses. Where were the parents?

We stayed at the store for well over and hour and a half roaming the aisles of our favorite store. Gabby picked out books and read them to me. We played with puppets. Sydney went off with a friend to look at books for older kids. Where were the other parents and students? Where was the show of support for the school?

I sat with my granddaughters listening to their friends read. Applause erupted each time a story was finished. One or two other adults sat down to listen. I only saw three people from the school staff in attendance. Where were the people who support these children?

We don't have much. It is a tight year in our home as it is for many people. Still I gave the girls a few dollars to purchase one raffle ticket each. Not much financial support, but I felt it important that the girls know we were supporting the school. Sydney went right for the Polar Express package hoping to get an outing for her family. Gabby went for a jewelry package hoping to win a gift for her mother.

Fewer and fewer people seem to be attending these fundraisers. I thought this was a great one since people could come in to buy books as Christmas gifts. Instead fundraisers that fill kids with pizza and make parents poor playing games are put to the forefront.

I know that working parents have trouble making it to these events, but where are the grandparents or other extended family? We can do it. Lunch with my granddaughters at school, attending their class parties and special events, picking up the girls from school, have all given me a connection with them and the people in their school. True, not all grandparents live near their grandchildren, but that shouldn't stop you, Grandparents. Ask about the fundraisers at the school. Send money to support the event. Send it in a card that lets your grandchild know that you aren't just sending money....you care.

We didn't win anything at the raffle. We did show up to show our support. We gave out the first ornament of December. We sat and listened to delightful stories told by children learning speak before an audience. We had a great time sharing books. We were the winners last night.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Broken Ornament

Pieces of white glass laid scattered on the floor. We all stood there staring at what was once a 'first ornament'.

Gabby got very quiet. When she is sad or angry a door closes on the pain. After a bit she melted into her mother's arms. All of the pain came pouring out. Her mother tried to soothe her telling her we would go immediately and find another special ornament for her.

"It won't be the same. It's not my first one," she sobbed.

Sometimes we forget how large something can be to a child. We know that things break. We try to understand the pain. Yet for a child who has lived such a short time, each precious moment is cherished. She knows that she cannot get back the first Christmas ornament that was given to her when she was only a few weeks old. A heart is broken as well as an ornament.

In thinking about my granddaughter and her sadness, I came up with the title for this blog, a title that means much more. Over the years I have looked time and time again at the ornaments that have traveled my life with me. Each year I hang them and remember those from the farm, those my sister stitched and painted, the fun ornaments my other sister creates, those made by my children. Each and every ornament has a story, has a place in my heart.

Christmas is a sentimental time. This time of remembering brings back thoughts of all those I miss who have passed away. Thoughts of days long ago. I understand Gabby's broken heart. We can never go back and recapture what has gone before.

We all have broken ornaments.....and the joy of remembering.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pee On A Tree

There is economizing and then there is ECONOMIZING. This time of the year for we unemployed and those trying to support a family on a shoestring is difficult at best. With all of the commercials encouraging us to make this Christmas the best ever and stores filled with carols and tinsel, it is hard not to feel the burden of an empty pocket.

My daughter is making her presents for most of the family this year. Her knitting is prized, so no one will mind one bit receiving these gifts of her hands. The kids and I are making our presents to give out starting Wednesday. We have more than our 25 days worth of gifts created from their hands. Pinecones have become sparkling ornaments. Precut ornaments are painted, sometimes a bit out of the lines.

My arthritic hands with painful joints take away my ability to do handwork. The gifts of needlepoint and cross stitch are a thing of the past. Tied ribbons and rolling cookies are difficult. This Christmas is not easy.

My daughter and I were not sure how to we were going to buy a tree. Then she had a call from a friend asking if we wanted to go to "Pee On A Tree". Hm.

"Don't worry, Mom, we take Puddles (the dog) to pee on a Christmas tree at Sleighbells Tree Farm. If he pees on a tree, we get a free Christmas tree."

Our moneyless Christmas was looking up. We could have any tree up to 7' tall.

"You mean the dog will pee on our tree?" I asked a bit concerned.

No, the dog just needed to pee in the area set aside for peeing dogs. Hm, again. Puddles doesn't do what we want him to do on a good day! How will we get him to pee on a tree!?

We arrived at the tree farm an hour early. A line was already formed. Thank goodness there was no rain in sight and the temps were mild. Puddles went crazy. Big dogs, little dogs, a dog with a pink tail, a couple of pit bulls, fat dogs, skinny dogs, old dogs, young dogs, dogs with a lot of hair, dogs with little hair, mutts, dogs with a lineage as long as the line of owners and dogs waiting to see if their dog would win them a free tree. Dogs.

Had we been smart, we would have kept Puddles in the car until we were ready to set him off on his peeing adventure. However, we weren't smart. The path to the front of the line was muddy. Puddles would only settle down if someone held him.....and if we held him, he wouldn't pee too early. Soon we were all muddy.

Finally, the festivities began, cheers rose up from the front of the line as doggies peed. Our friend's dog set a record with a 3 second time. Nerves were on edge as Puddles was called forward to perform. Gabby took hold of the leash and walked to the trees. Puddles sniffed and sniffed. Time ticked and ticked. From the sidelines we cheered, "C'mon, Puddles. You can do it!"

This little white dog who usually squats lifted his leg and made his family proud. For just a few minutes, the free tree was not important. We had a dog who came through under pressure. He was our wonder dog.

With muddy hero locked in the car, we set off to find the perfect tree. Standing next to the tree binder, my daughter exclaimed, "That's our tree!"

"Stacey, that is not our tree," I observed.

"Yes, it is. Read the tag."

I read the tag. Indeed it was marked with her name.

"This isn't our tree, Stacey."

"It does look bigger than our tree," she replied finally considering the idea that the tag was put on a wrong tree.

I could touch the top of the tee on the hill. This tree was at least 7' tall. Last time I checked I was 5'1".

Lovingly she informed the girls that we were going to have a surprise. Feelings were mixed, but the situation soon became funny. We decided to love this tree no matter what strange shape unfolded when the cords were cut. Our hopes turned to a Charlie Brown tree.

Stacey and I carried the heavy tree into the living room. We braced ourselves.

"Mom, it's beautiful."

Indeed it is beautiful. It may be the most beautiful tree we have ever had to grace our home.

Yes, our belts are tight this holiday season. Presents will be fewer. Yet the surprises that Christmas brings will be aplenty. Ours began with a dog peeing on a tree, and God giving us the best tree ever.

Friday, November 26, 2010

We Believe

"I saw Santa fly across the sky," Sydney said. "I even saw the reindeer."

She cracks me up. Long ago she learned the truth of the jolly man. In further conversations between Grams and gramsdaughter, we tossed about random thoughts on why we shouldn't give up the idea of Santa. We loved him. He gave us much delight and wonder. He did nothing to harm us. He only had good intent to bring happiness. He had a lot of helpers all over the world. He was everything good. He made us want to be good.

Mickey Mouse is similar. Good vibes, laughs, delightful stories and clothing line as well. Hm. I believe in him, and he was from the imagination of Walt Disney.

I believe in angels. They watch over us. They comfort us. They are good and bring us peace. I can't see them.

Fairies. I have never seen one yet I love to look at books about them, watch Gabby's movies starring fairies, building fairy house out in the trees. I believe in Tinker Bell. Heaven only knows that she protected, guided and brought delight to generations.

No one has ever sat down with me and said, "Pam, there are no fairies. Tinker Bell is a myth."

"Pam, there is no Mickey Mouse only ink and imagination."

I would probably respond, "But I know there is a Donald Duck."

Imagination and beliefs. Ours, Disney's, James M. Barrie, storytellers, prophets, soothsayers, anyone who ever dreamed, created, shared something we could not see, asked us to believe. Where would be be without that creativity, that revelation an that opportunity to make it ours.
By Gabby
Sydney and I decided that even though there is no Santa, we choose to have him in our lives. The seeds have already been planted. Gabby knows that Santa is someone we like to believe in.

"I think I will still believe in Santa, Grammy," she tells me.

Maybe the three of us will start a club. "Those Who Choose To Believe". We will continue believe in those things of imagination. They just might help us find more moments of joy, moments of memory, moments to pass on to our children. Perhaps that delight in believing will make us better people by believing that there is good in the world. Good we can pass on. From a man who gives generously, fairies who bring beauty to a sometimes difficult world, a mouse who often shows us ourselves.

I grew up learning parables that were created to teach. Stories that have continued through the ages. I grew up believing in a book that had many stories told by many in different ways, yet I believed the stories as seen through all of the different eyes and voices. I believe in something I cannot see. Some think it fantasy.

There is good in that man in a red suit. Sydney is trying to keep this legacy alive for Gabby. She loves her sister so much that she creatively embraces her. Oh, yes, ask any of us. We believe.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Am Thankful

Please go to my blog at www.neffroad.com for today's blog. It includes the blog I Am Thankful with lots of pictures.

Thank you for reading A Grandparent's Voice in whatever language you speak. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving....I am thankful for you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snow Days

Three, er, four in bed. Elbow to elbow, wiggling toes....except for the dog. No wiggling toes there. Rudolf's red nose just got discovered. It is a snow day.

Most of my Christmas movies are on VHS. The only VHS player is in my bedroom. Sydney is knitting with Puddles tucked on her lap. (He likes to sit where he can look at the window protecting us from squirrels.) I am in the middle with elbow pinned to my sides typing my blog and Gabby is sitting at the end of the bed working on a blanket she is making. It doesn't get much better.

"Grammy, can we have hot chocolate later?" Sydney asks.

Of course we will. What is a snow day without hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. In a squirt bottle?!?!

I love this time of the year. Thanksgiving meets us once more in two days. Christmas music has found its way to the radio station. One can find a Christmas movie on TV. Elf, The Grinch and Santa in a variety of scenarios will find there way to our house. We are counting on it.

We've made our ornaments for the 25 Days of Christmas and will start handing them out randomly next week. With our limited budget, we are making Christmas presents for family.

There isn't much snow on the ground. Ice seems to be the problem today. We waited for the approaching storm last night peering through the patio door occasionally hoping to see that first snow flake. It didn't make its appearance until later in the evening; however, waking to find the roof tops white with a skiff of snow on the lawn made up for the late arrival.

What is it that makes these days so special? The girls are home on the weekends. I spend time with them every day. Yet snow days are an unexpected....delightfully unexpected.

When my children were small, we took advantage of such days sitting before the fireplace with hot chocolate and a puzzle. We spent time watching movies and playing games. When the snow was deep, the kids bundled up and headed outside. Snow draws out the kid in all of us. It takes us back in time and makes memories of the present.

The dog seems to be enjoying this day with his girls. Snuggling close, he has no intention of leaving the scene. I know how he feels.

Snow days. A gift.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Heaven Only Knows

"Grammy, do you think I will go to Heaven," Sydney asked.

It never ceases to amaze me when random comments escape my granddaughters' lips. An essential grandparent skill is that of quick thinking. A good reason to take vitamin B complex.

"Honey, you will go to Heaven," I answer.

"Really, Grammy. I'm so happy," she leaps into my arms. "Who do you think we'll see in Heaven?"

She continued on quickly, "I know I'll see Odie and Sadie....". She continues on naming off all of the animals who passed through her life.

"I know," I added. "I look forward seeing Sadie, too. I believe we will see them. I want to see my mother and daddy again. I will get to see all of my family."

We talked more of Heaven.

What was it that brought Heaven to her mind? I remember as a child worrying about losing my parents someday. I cried many nights remembering a pet who had died. The losses were small in my young life, but they were very big to a child.

"I believe that Heaven is more wonderful than we can imagine. I believe that God is saving a big surprise for us."

"I see it as all white. What about you?"

"I see all different colors. I like to think the birds and trees will go along with us. No one knows. It is something no way to describe, Honey."

The children grow up hearing talk of a myriad of things they do not understand. We pass by the conversations giving little thought to them, to our words. What does the child retain? What words hide for another time?

I try to give the girls answers that will encourage them to find their own. To think. I want them to take what they learn and come to their own conclusions. As a child of the 60's, I rebelled against what my parents believed, wanting to find my own way. I wasn't given the tools or freedom to explore my thoughts at school, at church or at home. I didn't know how to give myself the freedom to express myself or the adult guides to ask me the questions that encouraged me to find my own answers.

I have no idea what Heaven is like. I have my own ideas, my own beliefs. But, mine should not be hers. She just might discover something that I didn't know. She might in turn be my teacher. We are on a journey together, you, me, billions of other people. None of us have all the answers. All of the answers are answered when we open ourselves to learn and listen to one another.

Hm. Maybe then we all find Heaven.

Friday, November 19, 2010

There Are No Words

There are no words to explain this thing of being a grandparent.
There are no words.

A child's hand in yours
The words "I love you" coming from out of nowhere
A child snuggling into bed beside you for warmth, for security
There are no words.

No words for that first time a baby is placed in your arms
Or the first time the word 'Grandma' is said
No words can express the spreading warmth in your chest
No words other than 'love' even come close

A child plastered against your side reaching over to hold your hand
"Up, Grammy", the words are priceless
A child empties her feelings that sometimes hurt
She asks her grandma to listen

There are no words

The child brings a toy to share
A picture of stick people
Tells her friends, "This is my Grammy"
The heart swells with love....there are no words.

A child no longer snuggles as once she did
Her interests are changing
She starts to leave the house then returns
She hugs me and kisses me good-bye.

There are no words.

A grandparent is defined by the love of a child
No textbooks prepare
No certification required
A grandparent is born on that 'birth' day.

There are no words. Oh, there are no words.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spinning A Rope

"You must be Gabby's grandma," the PE teacher said to me as I stood in the office door with camera in hand.

Yes, I was the grandma there to take a picture of my granddaughter spinning a rope. Imagine my surprise when Gabby came home from school to inform me that they were spinning ropes in class. We may be from cowboy country here in Oregon, but I know of no one here who spins a rope.

Just a few days ago I went with my son and his wife to see an old friend who was in a play. The first time we met Shane was when he came to Oregon to do the musical "Will Roger's Follies". The show calls for a rope spinner. Shane has traveled the US doing his rope tricks whenever the show finds its way to the stage. My son was in the same show thus Shane came to be a family friend. Now I find that my granddaughter is spinning a rope.

At the appointed time I was standing in the gym with my camera in hand determined to get a picture to send to Shane of Gabby spinning the lariat. I was early and not being shy entered into an enlightening conversation with her teacher.

I asked how she decided to bring rope spinning to the children. She informed me that they are doing circus tricks to give the kids fun ways to exercise.

"Not all children can do team sports. Some children are not coordinated to do all types of sports. Every child has different skills. I try to introduce a variety of fun activities interspersed with the team sports. Each child has a chance to find something they can do," she informed me.

She told me that schools are trying to change understanding that all children have different talents.

This is good news. I love that children are being given opportunities to excel and succeed by finding their own voice, their own talents. I came from a generation where all children were expected to be the same. Even my children were raised with some doors opening but very slowly. I think that some bullying stems from children who do not accept differences, who have parents who criticize those who have different interests, those who excel at different things, those who express their inner voice in a different way.

In Gabby's class, the children support one another. They help each other succeed as best they can. Different is not wrong. Different is just fine.

Gabby spun her lariat.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beneath the Kitchen Table

She crawled under the table lying next to the dog. Or, maybe the dog feeling her stress was there for her.

For the last week, Sydney has been working on a report for school. I've been teaching her how to use Power Point and the creative tools of the computer. She is a quick to learn and a sponge soaking it all up and using it.

While all of this is going on, I try to keep involved with Gabby. We have been painting ornaments. We do homework together. She keeps a steady run of conversation going. But.....this report is getting old to her.

"Gabby, please don't run," I ask for the umpteenth time as she and the dog barrel through the house. "I don't want to tell you again."

"She doesn't listen," Sydney pipes in not helping the situation. I explain to Syd that Gabby is just fine. She just has a lot of energy and is bored. Argh!

We continue on with the report on Switzerland. Basically, I sit on the sofa next to Sydney in case she has a question. The room is quiet....way too quiet.

"What's up?" I ask Gabby lying next to her beneath the table. She turns her head away.

"Everyone yells at me," she said.

"Honey, I didn't yell. I just need for you to listen, so I don't need to remind you each time," I explained.

"Everyone tells me what to do," the words begin to roll out. "Addie tells me what to do at school. She yells at me and makes me feel bad. She apologizes and says she won't do it again, then she does."

Now I understand. My young granddaughter is feeling alone. She is extremely sad. This bundle of pure energy and delight doesn't understand how someone can hurt her. It shakes her confidence.

"Sweetheart, if a friend is making you unhappy, play with someone else. You don't need to allow someone talk that way to you. Honey, you are such a wonderful person," I tell her.

This isn't the first time this has surfaced. This same 'friend' came to her birthday party showing the same behavior. Gabby is too kind-hearted to stand up to the girl. She wouldn't hurt anyone purposely. So how can a friend be so bossy and mean?

The report will be finished today. I will be on call for Syd, but Gabby is my focus. I think maybe we will dance and get rid of some of that energy. Maybe we will cuddle up in front of the fire and talk about wonderful plans for the holidays. Her mom is going to give her a play date tomorrow with another good friend. It is only when we are aware that we can lift up the hurting child. It is only when we observe leaving a door open that the child will come to us.

I am very protective of my grandchildren. I will protect them at all costs. My first instinct is to pin Addie's ears to the wall, but that would not teach my granddaughter how to resolve her problems. I want to give this child the confidence and knowledge she needs to keep her strong and healthy. Divorce, a sister going off to a different school, a move to a new house with a grandma in residence. So many changes have happened quickly. Sweet Gabby tries to find herself in the mix.

Switzerland will get finished off. A grandma will spend time listening, watching, protecting and, most of all, reassuring her girls that they are perfect just the way they are. Lessons a grandma learns beneath the kitchen table.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Squashing Santa

"Grammy, Addie told me that there is no Santa Claus," Gabby informed me yesterday when I picked her up from school. "I don't think that's true (waiting for it...waiting for it)..... do you?"

Ah, how quick can I be on my feet? Just exactly what is my role here? Why me, God? Why me!

"Well.....," I say trying to come up with a vague answer. "I like to believe that there is a Santa."

"Me, too," she adds. "I believe."

I remember when my son was young. The same was asked upon hearing the same rumor at school. Long live the 'Santa is a lie' rumor. His older sister knew the truth, so we decided that it was time to sit down for that stomach wrenching conversation. Darn it! I like Santa as well as the next kid. I like to think that he at the North Pole surrounded by elves with Mrs. Claus making candy. On Christmas Eve, we go to church but the child in me still hopes that Santa is in his sleigh making his rounds.

My son listened to my explanation of the non-existent Santa and the reasons we have lied over the years.

"Does that mean there is no Easter Bunny?"

Darn it. My planned conversation didn't include wiping out every belief. Darn.

"I know there is a tooth fairy. I felt her reach under my pillow," he continued.

Life is rough as a parent. I don't like that I have been the eradicator of childhood fantasies. I don't like that I squash dreams of flying reindeer, a rabbit carrying eggs from place to place. I was so thrilled that my son still believe in the tooth fairy that I grabbed hold and believed, too.

"Grammy, a lot of kids in my class don't believe in Santa," Gabby sadly tells me. "They don't believe."

Oh, if ever there was a Santa, I needed proof now. Why couldn't this wait for Mom or Dad? Argh!

"Well, Honey, it would be sad if we had Christmas without the excitement of Santa Claus," I lamely reply.

Once more my granddaughter amazes me.

"It would be okay, Grammy," she sincerely said. "Christmas is about the birth of Baby Jesus. It would be okay."

Oh, yes, sweet girl. It would be okay.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Time of Giving

Markers, paint brushes, paint pots, potpourri, wooden shapes covered the table.

"Okay. Now, if you spill anything, don't try to cover it up or wipe it up. Let me know so I can clean it up for you. I won't be angry."

"Grammy,  what are we doing with that stuff that smells good?" Gabby asks.

After Christmas last year, I threw a basket full of silver-painted and nature-raw potpourri into a bag thinking that it might serve a purpose later. Now was later.

"I want you to think of what you can do with it. Do you want to paint it? You can brush sparkle onto it. We could even tie a string on it and hand it out as a natural ornament....one that smells yummy."

'Tis the season. In 15 days we will begin our holiday giving. Our 25 days of Christmas will begin. This giving began back when my children were small. Now another generation is learning the joy of giving. Not just any giving. This is random giving. Ornaments made by young hands handed out to strangers in an effort to spread goodwill. It works. It worked so well that this year the girls want to hand out as many as they can.

"Grammy, can we go outside and find more things to paint?" Sydney asks.

We walk around the neighborhood hand in hand laughing and looking. We end up at Uncle's house roaming around his big yard under the huge fir trees. Baby squirrel comes to visit us. We discover at least 25 different types of toadstools in an assortment of color. Pieces of bark, rocks, twigs find their way into our bag. Best of all, we found time alone.

Creativity took hold of these girls as they designed their ornaments eager to make a special gift for some stranger. Some of the paint is a strange color on the wood. Some of the marker color is a little outside the line. They are all perfect.

Last year the girls were greeted with comments from these receiving strangers. One woman spoke in broken English. Her ornament was going home with her to her country. The children hand off the ornament with a holiday wish. They walk away leaving a stranger to wonder how they could receive a gift without any strings tied to it. How a child could give and not ask for something in return.

One woman was very rude to Gabby. This sweet girl with a loving heart was hurt. This Grammy wanted to bop the woman. But a lesson was learned. We pooled our energy sending good thoughts to this angry woman. We decided that she need this more than an ornament. A negative became a positive.

The pile of ornaments is growing. We will spend the next couple of weeks finishing off these random gifts. I will stand back and watch the girls hand out their ornaments. No names are exchanged. Little conversation passes between the two. The girls know not to engage in conversation with strangers. A gift is given and perhaps, just perhaps, a life is touched by the kindness of the girls. I know that our lives are touched in the giving of these gifts.

The girls wash the paint brushes and gather up the supplies.

"Grammy, can we do this every year?"

Honey, you can do this the rest of your life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Awakening to The World

My granddaughter is on Facebook with limited access. We all keep an eye on her information monitoring her posts as well as her friends. She cannot accept a friend without approval. Concerned. Yes.

She made simple posts to begin with cheering on a friend or family member. A short get well note for those not feeling well. Encouragement for a classmate or friend with a problem. Her journey into her new school brought support from those same friends and family. The fear of starting school where she knew no one was encouraged and supported by those who love her. The first B on a quiz brought her down, but the adults informed her that a B was not failure and she would do better.

She has not gone off to school alone. She has gone with a support group that cheers her on every day. "Way to go, Sydney!" "We are so proud of you!" "You can do it!" Adults who love her, those she doesn't see who live on another coast, those who are neighbors and friends of the family follow her daily life ready to do what is needed to let her know that she has a support system at the click of on keyboard.

We live in a new era. Many of us no longer live in the area of our youth. Some of us have lived away from family. Yet all of the people who love us are there to support my granddaughters. We create a safe environment for her with monitoring and allowing her to broaden her relationships with family far away. Yes, I worried about this Facebook thing for her, but seeing what this has done for her is remarkable.

This week Sydney posted a video about the children of Uganda. It had been shown in her social studies class. She invited everyone to watch it saying that many in her class had cried when they saw it...including her. I watched this story about orphans, orphans carrying a disease that would someday kill them. The story was heart wrenching. The fact that she posted it was impressive. She has found a platform on which to give her opinions, to show her concerns, to make a statement. Many watched her posted video giving her feedback. My granddaughter is finding her voice with the guidance of the many who love her.

Sometimes progress is not so hard to embrace.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Grandparent's Voice

What to call a blog? Hm.....Granny's Homepage. Fear in White Hair. The Dirty Truth: I Don't Know Everything. Disguised As Grammy. Grandma, Seeker of Truth.

Let's list my credentials for writing a blog about grandparents:
1. I am one.
2. Hm. I had one.
3. Hm again.

My experience qualifying me to to write such a blog.
1. Ah
2. er,
3. Well....
4. No prior experience before birth of Sydney.

Reasons I have for writing AGV:
1. A friend told me to write a blog.
2. A writer writes.
3. I have a desire to express my feelings.

What do I write about?
 1. Things that happen with my grandchildren.
 2. Things I learn about my grandchildren.
 3. Generational comparisons from my childhood to that of my grandchildren.
 4. The 60's. An era and my age.
 5. Living a single life, an unemployed life.
 6. Experiences shared with other grandparents.
 7. Observations of the world we live in.
 8. My fears, concerns and doubts.
 9. Things that work and things that don't.
10. The bonuses of grandparenting.
11. The life and times of me.

What do I expect to achieve from this blog?
1. Document a journey.
2. Write to understand this process of an evolving me.
3. A journal of a woman seeking answers and solutions.
4. A journey I hope others will join, so I can learn more.

I have been writing this blog for a little over a year. During this time, I have had life changes. There have been many ups and downs. My granddaughters are a year older facing new challenges. My daughter is trying to keep a family afloat. I am trying to find my place.

I am on a journey as a mother, a grandmother, a woman. I am discovering who I am in this phase of my life. I am an American citizen, a world citizen. I am a part of nature. I am a woman who cares.

A Grandparent's Voice. My voice. A voice belonging to others. A voice blended with yours. This is why I write.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Waiting Audience

"Smile (snap)," the photographer said. "Let's try that again. Everyone look at the camera."

Photographs. I have baskets full of old photos. A big black trunk holds boxes of family photos. Old worn out albums full of pictures of people I don't know sit in a corner. History. Memories. A opportunity to share.

My grandfather always kept a basket of old post cards on the table in the living room. As a small child, I would shuffle through the pictures looking at cards sent when my parents were small. Some of the cards were photographs of relatives and friends. Time after time when I visited my grandfather's home, I sat with the basket in my lap shuffling once more.


I now have the basket. It is full of current pictures. Time and time again my granddaughters will pull out the basket and remember. It wasn't until recently that Sydney, age eleven, began asking about the family history. Pictures have now become more interesting to her. She loves when we open the big trunk.

"Can I go through the pictures, Grammy?" she asks. Questions come with each picture. A history is passed on.

"Look at the clothing they wore back then," I tell her. "Be sure to look at the place where the picture was taken."

Soon we are looking at the mode of travel, a barnyard, a foot bridge, a baby in a wicker carriage. The past unfolds in many ways. We are drawn together in this time travel. My granddaughter was young when my mother died. My father was already gone. Through these old photographs, she is learning to know them. She sees a child with a birthday cake, a woman as a flapper, a grandfather as a performer. In this pictorial journey she learns.

Remembering a past, learning of those who went before, stepping back in time to the Model T and goat carts can be a very special time between a grandchild and a grandparent.

We are the story tellers with a waiting audience.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Grandma Magnet

"I'm going up to take a bath," I announce to the girls.

I start up the stairs. Sydney, Gabby and dog follow. Time to go get the mail. I open the door; the girls are behind me ready to go. I go to the garage to dig in one of our boxes looking for something that didn't fit into the house when we moved in a month ago.

"What are you doing, Grammy?" Gabby asks from the door. Soon she is exploring the boxes next to me.

At one time, I was a mommy magnet. If I was in the kitchen, in the basement, in the garage, in the back yard, one of my kids would show up sooner or later. "What are you doing, Mom." This was usually followed by a chain of questions and conversation.

We encourage our children to be independent. They play alone, they go to camp, they go on to college yet there is a silent draw that keeps us together. Even though I am missing my alone time now, I remind myself that all too soon a child will not be following me up the stairs or popping up next to the stove asking, "Can I help?"

When taking our families back to the farm for visits, my sisters and I were drawn back by that magnet. The gravity from Mom cooking in the kitchen would draw us to her, a cup of coffee and wonderful conversation. Dad walking down the lane would draw his daughters to tag along. When one sister went to get dressed, the other two would show up and old times would be revisited again. as we laughed and remembered. Even with my mother gone now, her daughters are still drawn to the pull of her.

"Grammy, sit in the middle," a usual comment when sitting on the sofa with my granddaughters. Soon feet are on my lap later replaced by heads. A magnetic force silently draws us together.

The parade of a grandma, two girls and a dog is a common sight in this home. The pull of love. A grandma who loves being magnetic.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gravity of Dreams

The gravity of dreams pulls us along sometimes bruising us, sometimes discouraging us and sometimes surprising us with an embrace. Always, always calling to us. 

"I want to be a fireman when I grow up. I want to be a princess. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a mommy. I want to be...."


Most children change their minds a dozen times or more as they grow up. I wanted to be a dancer. How could I not? I danced for hours in the playroom leaping from the day bed, pirouetting across the floor. All I needed was the record player and my feet that would not be still. Our church did not believe in dancing. Dream smothered. 


Hidden in the music and my dancing feet silently lurked a passion, one I was too small to acknowledge. The inability to pursue one dream silently lead me to an awareness of another that had been so much a part of me yet I didn't see it. For hours I played in that same playroom making up stories with my small Disney figurines. Peter Pan was the hero to the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio's world. Wendy was their friend and the Seven Dwarfs the silly fighters of foes. My stories changed daily never following the Disney tales. The imagination captured in those years, allowing to run free and create opened a door to a dream....a dream that was implanted in me from that first cell, a dream that had its own voice. I just had to listen.


Sometimes it is difficult to help our children find a way to listen to that inner voice. We can't afford gymnastics, music lessons, special classes that will assist our children in this search for themselves. As a parent it is not always easy to separate from our desires for our children in order to see what the child possesses. Sometimes we are just too busy trying to create a home and to find ourselves....the dreams we want to follow.


As a grandparent and as one who has made that journey, I understand that each of us needs that freedom to find ourselves. I've always encouraged my children to follow their inner voice even though at times it was a struggle. I knew that gravity of dreams would not be silenced. 

My granddaughters have yet to feel realize pull of a dream...a door waiting to be opened. They draw, they paint, they write. Sydney has discovered a renewed love of dance. Gabrielle has an active mind that is waiting to create in her own way. Sometimes I see Gabby pulling back in the shadow of her sister. A bit of defiance has surfaced. A girl struggling to be seen. This job of parenting and grandparenting is not easy. The silent messages are not always easy to define and are often played out in poor behavior with a wrong response. A voice is struggling to find its path. A gravity is pulling a little girl who doesn't know how to define it. Grandparents are a path. We should not underestimate the power of encouragement, recognition and a listening ear. The gravity of dreams sometimes needs someone to clear the way for better understanding.


The gravity of my dreams led me to writing when I was just a small child drawing stories to send to Peggy, my sister in college. The pull of this voice could not be silenced. In following it, doors opened and miracles happened. By giving in to the pull of the gravity of my dreams, I give my grandchildren the desire to follow theirs. We cannot smother this pull on our lives. I believe it is a voice that will never be silenced. I believe that when we all acknowledge and follow that gravitational force, we become a world of peace and love.


The gravity of dreams. Yours, mine, theirs.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Christmas in November

"Do you want to take your DS or something else to do," I asked my oldest granddaughter in regards to the first Christmas party of the season.

"No, we'll be busy talking to people," the eleven-year-old replied.

Hm.

My son and his lovely wife are having the first party of the holiday season, a party whose roots began four years ago as "Christmas in November". This event began in a motel room with the cast and crew of the National Tour of Evita. The next year the party was held in NYC where they were living at the time. Last year the party made it to Oregon where friends and family from the west side could attend. Tomorrow night the party will be in the little yellow house.

My granddaughter's comment surprises me. Last year the girls entertained themselves. I didn't notice interaction with other guests. It happened when I wasn't watching. In reflection, I remember that the girls didn't want to leave the party. We had stayed for hours at the all day open house watching guests come and go. A guest list of mostly adults didn't bore the girls. They were attending a party consisting of mostly adult. Adults who were mostly strangers to the girls.

Children like to be accepted by adults. When an adult notices them, they bloom. Adults who give them not only recognition but also an honest interest in the child encourages self-confidence. Family adults can give them special strokes, but when someone recognizes the child beyond that nest, a new light turns on.

When working with kids at risk, I found them to be hungry for that recognition. Many of these children did not get this attention at home. Many of these children had low self esteem. I wasn't anyone special, but I did listen. The more I listened, the more the kids sought me out. Eye to eye contact, that focus on that single child was feeding a hunger. I often thought I should have had a sign over the office door that read 'MOM'.

The girls love the little yellow house. It represents family, a future that will some day be a past, a yard in which to play and discover, another nest in which they will grow. In a sense, they consider it their home, too.

Sometimes we live life so fast that we miss the treasures that come in a mere comment. We are going to the first party of the season in that little yellow house, a place that bound a family through yard work, paint and putty. A house that was transformed from bordering on derelict will be full of life and  Christmas fun. Those who are strangers to one another will leave as friends. Two young girls will be embraced in an atmosphere of friendship and love. They will be embraced by adults who take an interest in them. Those who will ask and listen. Those who unknowingly will give these girls a better self image. Christmas will come early in Oregon tomorrow night.

"Grammy, can we stay for the whole party?" Sydney asked.

Oh, sweet granddaughter, of course we will.

A thank you to About.com and Susan Adcox for posting my story on generations living together. Check it out at: http://grandparents.about.com/u/sty/grandparentingissues/SharingHousing/Three-Generations-One-House-Challenges-and-Rewards.htm

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kitchen Table

The table. A gathering place. A meeting place. A place to work puzzles, do homework, type a blog. The table.

This morning the Today show had a segment on the table and family interaction. Is this place to gather and the gathering time fading into the past? In our new living situation, my daughter is seldom here since she works hours that seem to change day to day. The girls and I have table time, but we miss Mommy.

While my daughter and I sat watching the show, a reality smacked me right in the face. We don't talk. I wonder if we have ever had a true conversation. I'm a talker but that doesn't mean she needs to be one, too. Yet, I miss conversation. I miss recollection. I want this for our relationship, for the granddaughters. I want to know my daughter better.

I grew up sitting around the kitchen table. It was the activity hub of the house. We always ate together in the kitchen. When visitors came, we sat at the kitchen table. The kitchen might have been the most important room in our house.

When working in the theater in the 80's, my kids were tag-alongs with the stage often our 'table', the place where we spent many hours. Did we talk?

Did we have conversations learning to express ourselves, learning to resolve problems, reminiscing? I'm not sure we did. How could I have forgotten the importance of that table when my kids were younger? Did money, jobs, my life as a single mom bury those important memories around the kitchen table?

I don't want the kitchen table to become obsolete. I want the girls to grow up with family stories as did I as a child. I knew all about my parents' pasts through conversations in the kitchen. I learned about me as a small child in the same place. My life has been made richer because of the conversations over a span of my eighteen years sitting at that table.

The girls love hearing about them as small children. Sometimes we pull out the photo basket. They ask questions and history comes alive. Once in awhile I give them a 'cousin' quiz, pictures of cousins they have yet to meet.

Conversations change with grandchildren over time. I try to change with them. I am responsible for that 'kitchen table' in my home. Maybe this is why my visits with my sisters are so important. They remember the kitchen table. We talk for hours on end. We learned how sitting on colorful vinyl chair around a table full of Mother's good cooking.

I am a table....a kitchen table.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Speaking Grandchild

"Grammy, I told everyone in my class that Mommy would make one for them, too," Gabby informed me.

Hm. This could be a problem. Mommy knits. Her work is fun and wonderful. For her birthday, Gabby received a rather abstract looking elephant from her mother. a design that Gabby chose herself. The next day the 'little princess' elephant went to school with her peeking out of her backpack.

Stacey tries to keep up with requests for her work from friends and co-workers. Sydney's friends ask for a stuffed animal for their birthdays. In the last three weeks, two bunnies, a purple elephant, a big cat, a penguin have been started and completed. A frog and cat are the next projects on the list. I don't think I'll tell her that I want one of each.

I don't know if my daughter realizes that her children are very proud of her. They show off her work to friends, family and classmates. The animals sleep with them, sit on their beds, watch TV with them and accompany them when they feel sad. Their friends' requests for these stuffed toys give the children even more pride in their mom.

Silent messages. Messages that come in the form of an action or in a comment overheard. Messages that come with an elephant looking out from a backpack or a friend opening a handmade present beaming with delight.

Sometimes I forget to look for these messages until one stares me in the face. I forget to look instead of listen. A parent yelling support for their child at a soccer game tells the child that the parent is watching and proud of them. A parent watching a child go to the door of a house in a silly costume, tells the child that a parent enjoys being with them. Setting aside a project, turning of a computer or TV, putting aside oneself tells children that they are the most important thing in a parent's world. We forget the messages that we send. What are our silent messages? Kids know the language of these actions.

I've develop this language understanding as I age. Didn't know I could speak it, but I am becoming more and more proficient in it. I'm amazed that I can understand it having not a very good understanding in my younger years. The language isn't difficult. It takes a bit more observation, but this language of awareness has taught me more about life than this English language I speak. I had to learn to interpret this language. I had to train myself to listen to the way each child speaks the language. The language sometimes has no words, only actions. Sometimes the words mean more than what they represent. I can speak a little Spanish, say random words in French. Maybe one of my best spoken languages will be Grandchild.

"Gabby, I don't think Mommy will be able to make elephants for all of your classmates," I explain to my granddaughter. "Mommy doesn't have time to make so many since she works. She only makes them for friends and family. I know she would like to, but she has so many to make already."

"I didn't tell everyone. She could only make them for some of them."

A proud daughter who wants to fill the world with purple elephants....those made by HER mommy.

A hidden language spoken....a grandma listens and understands.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Not Like It Used To Be

The night was just perfect for trick or treat. No rain. Warm evening. No jackets covering up costumes. Children eager to knock on doors they knock on every year.

I love walking along with the girls. They are getting older. These visits will dwindle and disappear.

"Let's go to that house. They have neat decorations!" a child yells.

"Those people don't live there anymore," yells another.

Yes, people have moved out and new neighbors moved in. The street where my grandchildren grew up is dark. The neighborhood has changed. Children grow older so parents no longer turn on the front light. Some older children go to parties instead of trick or treating. Others, like us, are candy-gathering.

"I don't mind the teenagers," said a friend when discussing the fact that more and more teenagers are going out with grocery bags in hand. "I just think they need to be in costume."

Another parent and I disagree. I like to see the older children given alternatives, such as door to door for UNICEF, handing out candy or supervising younger siblings on this yearly house to house trek.

"I took five hand fulls," yells a little boy. Instead of answering the door, these people decided to place the candy bowl outside for a little 'help yourself'. We encouraged the girls to take only one piece saving the rest for all the other children yet to visit the house. Where are the parents?! Where is the supervision? Where is the involvement?

"My husband got down on his knees at the door and got candy," said another woman of her husband who had dressed in costume when accompanying his kids from house to house.

Dumbstruck. Yes, I was dumbstruck. First teens and now husbands!

"Let's go to Hannah's house!"

"There's McKenna's house!"

"Can we go around our street now?"

"There's Mrs. CB's house." Mrs. CB is the school principal. Every years she hands out books.

Distraught, Sydney who has been doing this for at least 10 years walks back from the house. "She gave us candy this year."

A dentist has always handed out new toothbrushes to each child. This year it was candy.

"Wow," I said to Sydney on the way back to the house. "You didn't get a book or a toothbrush."

She puts her arm around me as we walk home.

"Trick or treating is just not like it used to be," she said.

True, my sweet granddaughter. So true.

Monday, November 1, 2010

In The Eyes Of The Beholder

Them:  Hannah Montana, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, etc.

Us: Annette Benning, Sandra Bullock, Helen Mirren, etc.

Everyone:  Ads, commercials, magazines, movies, TV, etc.

Beauty (per free dictionary):
1. The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality.
2. One that is beautiful, especially a beautiful woman.

Hm.

Baby boomers remember the 60's. A time of freedom, acceptance, freedom to be whatever you wanted to be. Beauty was supposed to be in the eyes of the beholder. So what happened? 

We look for beauty in cosmetics, clothing, face lifts, hair color then tell the children that they are beautiful just the way they are. We point out beautiful people, build sexy muscles, show off our most attractive parts. Do we accept ourselves just the way we are?

I'm tired of rag magazines that line check-out stands. I'm tired of pageants parading beauty across the stage. I'm tired of seeing older performers with plastic faces and lips that don't move. I'm worried that little girls play with beautiful dolls like Barbie, their idols and princesses. Little girls have play make up and nail polish. Children's clothing mimics adults. Who is the beholder?

I'm finally discovering that I enjoy a day without make up. Sweatshirt and jeans are my style. My hair is finding its original color while the smile I've had my entire life has given me wrinkles that accompany every upturn of my lips. High heeled shoes hurt my feet that love to be wiggle free. My body is not toned as long ago, but I certainly feel comfortable in it.

Last night I watched ghosts and goblin running door to door laughing and yelling. Costumes covered them making them all equal. We should all run so freely in our own skin. We should teach our children to find that freedom in their skin, too.

I have new idols now. These men and women make me proud to be an older woman. I have such admiration for those not afraid to age, not afraid to be beautiful in a new way.

Mine:  Judi Dench, Michael Caine, Al Pacino, Camryn Manheim, Clint Eastwood.

I admired beautiful actresses who aged naturally. Their looks did not affect their talents. Mary Martin, Helen Hayes. Anyone who ever saw Hallmark's To Dance With the White Dog starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy cannot forget them or the beauty of a story of aging years. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

We all have our 'opinion' regarding what we find beautiful. Mother Teresa wasn't beautiful. I've never seen an ugly Disney princess. However, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan didn't seem to have a problem finding long-lived popularity. Where do we look for beauty? How deep does it go? Would an artist ever have painted a Christ or Mary as less than beautiful?

I am adding a new definitions to 'beauty'.

Beauty:
1. Beyond skin deep.
2. Found only in the eyes of the beholder.


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Friday, October 29, 2010

A Charlie Brown World

"Are you watching?!" my son asks over the phone. "The Great Pumpkin is on! Hurry up, it's already started."

My granddaughters and I run to the livingroom.

"Hurry up, Grammy," Sydney yells as I try to find the station. "We're missing it!"

Another year and Linus is still sitting in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to bring toys. Ah, sweet, ageless Linus.

We love Halloween. The decorations were out two weeks ago. Pumpkins have been carved. As a family, we celebrate right along with Charlie Brown every year.

"Grammy, do we watch all of the Charlie Brown shows? Which person do you like the best? Why isn't Charlie Brown a cartoon show on every week? Can we watch all of the shows?" The girls questions came one right after the other.

My son loved Charlie Brown. James kept his legos in a small suitcase that his grandma gave to him. He also had a Snoopy stuffed toy. Now another generation was taken in and captured by this outcast boy and his wonderful circle of friends.

Charlie Brown characters are easy to relate to, to understand. We all have a little bit of Charlie Brown in us. Maybe we understand Linus with that inner strength hidden behind a blanket. Everyone has had a Lucy in their lives. I've known a few Schroeders. How often have I called a small child Pig Pen after a day of hard playing? Yes, we all live in a Charlie Brown world.

We have watched these shows for so many years that we know what is coming next. Sometimes we even repeat the lines along with the characters. After Halloween is over, we will wait for all of the characters to go with Charlie Brown to his grandmother's house for Thanksgiving. Best of all, we will check the listings early so we don't miss Linus telling the Christmas story and Charlie Brown's tree. We can relate because we understand.

I'm thrilled that the girls love these stories. These stories teach them about kindness. They help them to be more understanding of those who are different. In fact, they help to see personalities in these cartoon children who might remind them of someone in real life. Charles Shultz understood.

"Grammy, I can't find my cat tail." We leave Linus to wait in the pumpkin patch for another year starting our search for Sydney's cat tail. Linus (Gabby) is in bed. Mommy (Lucy) is tossing out questions as to who was wearing the tail when last seen. I'm Charlie Brown just trying to do the best I can.

I love living in a Charlie Brown world.